Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Papal visit

This is a link to a website that has complete coverage of the papal visit.

Pope Benedict XVI at White House

Here is an excerpt from the Pope's address at the White House:

"The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. She is convinced that faith sheds new light on all things, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destiny of every man and woman. Faith also gives us the strength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us to work for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders and those whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born of firm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation."

My comment: Note how the Pope stresses that democracy requires that leaders be guided by truth. This is an important theme for Benedict, who has often spoken against the relativism that afflicts modern societies.

How to profit from the Pope's visit

The best way to profit from the Pope's visit is to listen to or read what he actually says. Pope Benedict is a profound thinker, and his words need to be pondered carefully. Don't depend on sound bites from the media to interpret it for you. He's here as a pastor speaking to his flock.

Pope Benedict XVI Interview yesterday

Yesterday John Allen and other reporters asked the pope some questions. Here is the pope's response to Allen's question about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. He mentioned three things: 1) absolutely excluding pedophiles from the priesthood 2) the urgent pastoral work of healing for the victims and indeed all Catholics 3) cleaning up the seminaries The Pope:

Benedict XVI:
It is a great suffering for the church in the United States, for the church in general, and for me personally that this could happen. If I read the histories of these victims, it’s difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betrayed in this way their mission to give healing and to give the love of God to these children. We are deeply ashamed, and we will do all that is possible that this cannot happen in the future.
I think we have to act on three levels.
The first is the level of justice, the juridical level. We now have also norms to react in a just way. I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality, but pedophilia, [which] is another thing. We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry, this is absolutely incompatible. And who is really guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest. So the first level is, as we can do justice and help clearly the victims, because they are deeply touched. So [there are] two sides of justice, on the one hand that pedophiles cannot be priests; on the other hand, to help in all the possible ways to the victims.
The second level is the pastoral level, the level of healing and help of assistance and of reconciliation. This is a big pastoral engagement, and I know that the bishops and the priests and all the Catholic people in the United States will do all possible to help assist and to heal, and to help that in the future these things cannot happen.
The third point [is that] we have made a visitation in the seminaries to also do what is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep, spiritual, human and intellectual formation –with discernment so that only sound persons can be admitted to the priesthood, only persons with a deep personal love for Christ and a deep sacramental love, to exclude that this can happen [again]. I know that the bishops and the rectors of seminarians will do all that is possible so that we have a strong discernment, because it’s more important to have good priests than to have many priests. This is also our third level, and we hope that we can do, and we have done, and we will do in the future, all that is possible to heal this wound.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Welcome, Pope Benedict!

It's great to have the pope in the USA--welcome, Holy Father!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Offering it up

I've been rereading Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope. He mentions a practice that used to be quite common among Catholics, but seems to have fallen by the wayside. It is the practice of "offering it up."

While major sufferings can and do come into our lives--tragedies and severe things that are hard to bear--most of our everyday sufferings are small things that can cause annoyance and discomfort. These things can be turned into opportunities to join our sufferings to those of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

The Pope's words made me reflect on this more. Sometimes I forget and waste these chances to offer everything to the Lord. But in some mysterious way that we can't fully understand, I can offer to God through Jesus my aches and pains, a cutting remark from someone, some extra work I didn't want to do, bad weath, or whatever it might be, and God can use that to bring grace to someone anywhere in the world.

Benedict says: "What does it mean to offer something up? Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ's great 'com-passion' so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Anniversary of John Paul's death

Today is the third anniversary of Pope John Paul's death. Recently I read an account of what happened the day when he was shot. It was truly a miracle that he survived, because clinically he was in such grave condition that he very nearly died. Thank God that he survived for another 24 years. During that time he gave the Church a marvelous wealth of teaching, especially with his theology of the body. It will take a long time to unpack it all. The Church will be blessed for many years to come with his lucid explanations of man and woman and the meaning of the gift of self.

Nun pleads guilty to theft

I haven't been blogging about scandals in the Church, since there has been so much commentary, what more could I add? But I found myself thinking a lot since yesterday about this story concerning a nun, Barbara Markey, who embezzled over 300,000 from the diocese of Omaha. She pleaded guilty, will be sentenced in July, and could get up to 20 years in prison.

First, I have to think, "There but for the grace of God go I," so I'm not writing this in any kind of self-righteous way. But I have to wonder how it happened that someone who at an earlier point in her life wanted to give up all worldly goods and follow the poor Christ, and made a vow of poverty, could have gotten to this point.

Whatever happened--and I presume she has a gambling addiction because most of the money was spent in casinos--it must have happened little by little. Someone doesn't start out stealing 300,000. It must have happened with little concessions here and there, perhaps thinking "No one will notice this little bit of money is gone" etc., etc., But once a person is on that slippery slope, she can plunge downhill pretty fast.

The three vows--poverty, chastity, and obedience--are the opposite of three of the capital sins: avarice, lust and pride. Money and sex seem to be the two biggest trouble spots in human life.

Thankfully, stories like this about nuns are rare; the vast majority of sisters are quietly living out heroic lives of dedication. But it's easy to go astray, and religious life is no exception. Perhaps the take-home lesson here is that we religious have to make choices that are consistent with the vows we have made. Over time, routine and the tediousness of everyday life can cause us to forget our reasons for wanting to follow Jesus and how we fell in love with him. It can happen in marriage too, which is why divorces are unfortunately common. But it all starts with little things. Prayer is the indispensable means to keep on going day in and day out, like St Paul says, "Do not grow weary of doing good."